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Colton-Pierrepont honored for use of technology in the classroom

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COLTON - When the St. Lawrence County Information Technology Advisory Board holds its annual symposium on Wednesday, the presenters will include Joseph A. Kardash,of the Colton-Pierrepont Central School District.

The district is also being honored with this year’s Helene Mellon SPIRIT Award.

According to a new release announcing the honor, Colton-Pierrepont is being recognized as a result of the initiative they launched this year, giving each ninth and 10th grade student in the district a Google Chromebook.

Eve B. Whalen, a freshman at the school, said she was excited about the initiative when she first heard about it.

“I was really excited, because we would be getting laptops and saving on paper,” she said. “I’m a member of the Green Team, so that was really cool. Plus it was nice to see the school moving up in technology.”

Andrew T. Jenkins, a sophomore, said his first thought was wondering how it would impact the typical school day.

“I was interested to see how the curriculum would change, because now we would be doing a lot of notes and assignments online,” he said. “But a lot of the teachers have really latched onto it.

Mr. Kardash explained the machines look like a laptop computer, with the major difference being programs cannot be downloaded to them.

“It’s just a browser,” he said, adding students can still write papers and complete assignments on them by using Google Docs, with their work being saved on “the cloud,” an internet database that preserves documents and files in cyberspace, rather than on the hard drive of a particular machine.

The changes were something that Mr. Jenkins said some students struggled with initially, but as the year has progressed he said it’s been a while since he’s heard any complaints.

“At first some of the students were hesitant and there was some problems at first, but after about the first month they worked themselves out,” he said.

An early year training session with Mr. Kardash and Technology Coordinator Peter Edwards helped ease the transition.

“It was pretty easy going from (Microsoft) Word to Google Docs,” she said. “Once we got to used to it, it was pretty easy to figure out.”

Next year’s eighth and ninth graders scheduled to receive the tablets.

At that point students in grades eight through 11 will be taking them home and each will have one assigned to them, Mr. Kardash said, adding while the program may sound expensive, it’s actually more feasible than one may think.

“There’s a significant cost offset,” he said, explaining that when possible the district is now attempting to purchase e-books, which cost a significant amount less than traditional textbooks.

“You have to buy the machines, but the cost is offset by lower printing, copying and textbook costs and believe it or not, electricity,” he said.

Mr. Kardash explained, “The kids charge them at home and the batteries are so good we don’t need to charge them during the day. When we replace 40 desktops that were running 24 hours a day, there is significant savings.”

Additional savings also come from no longer needing to purchase desktop computers.

“The other savings come from not replacing desktops. When you replace a lab that costs $20,000, but now we don’t have to do that.”

Next year the district is also planning to purchase some for use in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades.

“They’ll be able to use them, but they won’t take them home yet,” he said.

Mr. Kardash said has yet to finalize its plans for the machines when students graduate from high school.

“We haven’t decided how that’s going to work yet,” he said. “What we might do is make them available for students in the elementary.”

One thing they’re not planning to do though is give that year’s incoming eighth grade class the old machines.

“As kids come in we’re going to try and give them new ones,”he said.

While Colton-Pierrepont may be the only school district in the region with such a program, they’re not the first district to incorporate technology like this in the classroom.

“The state of Maine does this,” he said, adding many other districts across the country have also implemented similar programs.

“We studied some failures and we studied some successes,” he said. “We’re trying to copy the successes and avoid the failures.”

The award will be presented on Wednesday at the third annual North Country Technology Symposium & I.T. Expo at Clarkson University.

On the web:

www.stlawco.org/nctechsymposium

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